I felt the burn, all right.
I gained 20 pounds over a two-year period. It’s bound to happen when you transition from sitting in a van all day and eating fast food as a touring actor to working nights and eating a second dinner at 2am as a non-touring actor. I wanted to wear pants again, so decided to take control of my bad habits and manage my feelings in a different way. I signed up for a 24-hour gym, a gym we’ll call Z-Sport Fitness, and bought a 12-pack of personal training sessions.
Z-Sport is the McDonald’s of gyms. It is cheap and crappy and you might get sick from it. At less than $40 a month, you get what you pay for. The hand towel you grab at the front desk to mop up your sweat is also your shower towel. And, speaking of showers, I brought my phone into the shower with me in a waterproof pouch I bought on Amazon, because I knew of too many people who had their stuff stolen from the lockers.
One time I showed up for a group exercise class but the teacher never did. I hope he or she is okay. But, if you’re just looking to get in and get out, Z-Sport is probably fine. For some reason, I thought that joining this kind of gym would be “it” for me, the thing to actually help me get back into a routine and find a plan I could stick to, and maybe even enjoy. I was, of course, horribly wrong.
Z-Sport is the McDonald’s of gyms. It is cheap and crappy and you might get sick from it.
This wasn’t my first time joining a gym or enlisting the help of a trainer. I had been a member at another local chain gym, but my monthly membership alone cost me one show’s pay, so I had to quit. It was a very nice gym and my trainers were kind and helpful, but personal training there was so expensive that for a period of time it sent me into credit card debt. I feel like my past experience having a gym membership and a personal trainer is relevant, so you know that I’m not a moron, and that the experience I’m about to describe is not normal.
Z-Sport set me up with a trainer I’ll call Nick. The manager of Z-Sport thought we’d be a good match because I’m a comedian and Nick is Jamaican. If anyone can help me connect the dots on that, by all means. The manager also paired me with Nick because I mentioned I had enjoyed boxing with my trainer at my previous gym. Nick, apparently, also knew about boxing.
My first meeting with him was as pleasant as could be. He asked about my goals, ran some fitness tests and told me to eat oatmeal and hard-boiled eggs every day for breakfast. I mentioned to him that I was an actor, so I probably couldn’t hold a regular spot in his schedule each week due to rehearsals, auditions and shows, and that sometimes I’d have to cancel at the last minute. He said that was okay. As long as I texted him and let him know, we’d be cool. He ended our first meeting by telling me to spend an hour on the stairclimber three days a week?—?a plan so easy, it’s almost like I could have come up with it myself. But I was hopeful, and so that was what I did between sessions.
Feeling the burn
The second time I saw him, Nick was a completely different person. Gone was the cheerful, supportive guy I met a week earlier. Here was a dead-eyed guy running me through some stock drills?—?lunges, mountain climbers, crunches?—?while checking his phone. He mumbled that we’d box next time. Huh, I thought, maybe he’s having a bad day! I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But my next session was the same. We did the exact same drills we’d done the week before. While I was on the ground doing sit-ups, Nick and another man stood at my feet arguing about where Nick’s paycheck was.
For three weeks in a row, Nick asked me how my Thanksgiving was, as if he had not seen me since that holiday. If I asked him about his weekend, he would say, “Good. Got drunk, so that’s all that matters.” I mention that not to sound judgemental. To some people, drinking on the weekend IS all that matters. But this is just another example of this dude-bro showing absolutely no interest in me as a person or as a client.
Eventually, I had to move a session. Well, two. One time I knocked an entire gallon of almond milk onto my kitchen floor right before heading to the gym, so I called Nick and he let me move my session to the next day, no problem. We laughed about me spilling a gallon of milk on the floor, because that is universally funny, to Jamaicans AND comedians.
Then I booked my first voiceover, so I rescheduled another session, giving Nick plenty of notice.
One time, he cancelled on me. One time he asked me to come in an hour early. Both times were fine by me, because why wouldn’t they be? Stuff happens (please refer to almond milk disaster). I definitely wanted to respect the 24-hour cancellation policy. But also, Nick said he didn’t care, and also, he had cancelled on me so like, shouldn’t leniency work both ways?
Before our sixth session, Nick texted me to “make sure I was coming in.” When I arrived, he asked me if someone had forced me to do personal training. “No,” I said, “I definitely wanted to do this. I’ve been outta the game for a while so I wanted someone…” He interrupted: “Because you’ve cancelled on me a lot and you aren’t really getting results, so I think it would be best if you worked with another trainer.” I felt my face getting very hot, and not because I was running in place on the ground like I had been for six weeks (They have treadmills. Why didn’t Nick ever put me on a treadmill?).
I felt my face getting very hot, and not because I was running in place like I had been for six weeks.
I mentioned to him that yes, I’d canceled on him twice?—?once without much notice and once with plenty of notice?—?but he’d also cancelled on me. I reminded him that we did the same exercises every week and maybe THAT was why I wasn’t seeing results. Also, he had never once boxed with me like he’d promised.
Nick responded that was my fault, because he never knew when I was coming in, so he never knew when to bring his equipment. I mean, I felt insane. Was I blacking out every week and just shirking all responsibility? Had I forgotten canceling all of my appointments so I could lay in bed eating chocolate all the time? Is the gym the only place on this earth so sacred that you cannot move an appointment if an emergency or more important engagement arises? Apparently, at Z-Sport Fitness, where they installed a foaming hand soap dispenser in the shower and called it “shampoo/conditioner/body wash,” it is.
Nick heard none of this. Instead, he gave me the card of a trainer who was 60 years old with no clients. I was like a horse being put out to pasture before I even ran my first race.
Breaking up is hard to do
I share this story not just as a public Yelp review (although, please, for the love of God, do not sign up for a membership with X?—?er, Z-Sport Fitness), but to say that I think working out is sort of a personal thing. I think why we do it is personal, I think people’s preferences and goals are always personal and I think there’s a reason why working out with a professional is called PERSONAL training. I PERSONALLY thought I looked like an accordion when I sat down, so I wanted a PERSON to guide me and help me. I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable in my skin. Working out could have been a new comfort for me, an escape, and instead it was another reminder of how unhappy I was with the way I looked and the way I was living my life.
I was like a horse being put out to pasture before I even ran my first race.
Furthermore, for being, you know, a total slug at the time, I did have at least some prior knowledge of machines and weights and correct form. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a first-time worker-outer and have someone make you feel worse about yourself than you did when you first walked through the gym doors. Imagine if I had not been the person I am (and trust me, my confrontation with Nick made me very embarrassed and upset and for like, six hours I thought that I was actually the problem in this situation). Imagine that I had worked out with this older man whom Nick had passed me off to and kept my membership, if I hadn’t reported Nick to his managers (who didn’t give a rip, but still), if I thought that my experience was what “going to the gym” and “being healthy” meant. I would have given up immediately. I mean, no wonder so many people don’t want to do those things, or would rather chase a quick fix.
Call me a softie (please don’t?—?my body image is still so fragile), but I think we could make so much progress in the health field and beyond if we were nice and hopeful and willing to change, and be changed?—?or at least affected?—?by others. And if we were able to walk away from something the moment we knew it was wrong, and articulate our feelings like adults. If I had quit training with Nick the day he had me run up and down the stairs while he talked to some college girl about fixing her car, I could have saved myself like, six hours of my time and all of the weird guilt and embarrassment I felt when he “fired” me as his client. Giving a shit about yourself and the people you interact with, professionally and PERSONALLY, is the only way to enact change on the most basic level.